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China’s military might is mythical rather than real

India has shattered the myth that Chinese have indomitable military might. Strategic experts acknowledge that the recent developments at the India-China border have changed the so-called ‘asymmetry of power’ argument. India, which has been holding ‘head-on’ at the border for over four months in the face of China’s much-vaunted military and economic might, has proved that the ‘asymmetry of power’ argument does not hold true anymore.

Indian armed forces came across as a formidable adversary of Chinese martial monolith. Indian force mobilisation has been effective and it has a competitive advantage in mountain warfare. What happened in Galwan Valley on June 15 was acknowledged globally. India’s capturing of tactically important commanding heights on the top of the five posts to the south of Pangong Tso on 29-30 August tilted the balance in favour of India.

The operations to secure the heights on those features were undertaken by the Special Frontier Force (SFF) comprising Tibetans. Taking those heights may lead to interception of Chinese forces, and this is ‘Advantage India’. Indian troops can intercept Chinese moving from Chusul to Demchok through the valleys below. That is a definite disadvantage for China.

In a bid to showcase its military might, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed 50,000 strong troops with modern weaponry ready to unleash their power against India. The Chinese have also made many diplomatic statements that were coercive. These have come from the dragon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence Ministry, their Western Theatre Command and even from the Communist Party mouth piece Global Times.

The different Chinese statements have appeared interventionist, prescriptive and coercive.

But, the Indian Army has put up a strong resistance and continue to be in “eyeball-to-eyeball” positions at all the friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh with mirror deployment of its troops. Consequently, China faced reverses on the Indian front.

After the Pentagon’s annual report on China highlighted that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as “the largest navy in the world” and highlighted its increasing capabilities, former director of National Security Council Secretariat of India, Tara Kartha observed that such forecasts and warnings did not affect Indian decision to counter Chinese belligerence in Ladakh. “For India, warnings of Chinese aggressiveness were ‘superfluous’ given the ongoing conflict. Forecasts of superior Chinese power did not affect Delhi’s decision to meet the threat head-on, something that other countries need to acknowledge. China is certainly a power to reckon with, but it is not quite the dragon that the Pentagon or Beijing paints it to be,” Kartha quipped.

The report suggested that China owns the largest ground force, navy, coast guard and maritime militia in the world. Besides, it has the largest air force in the Indo-Pacific region. “There was this argument that India being a $2-trillion economy and China being five times that meant that China had a major advantage. They have a much stronger military force, much bigger economy, bigger military spending etc so India is no match for China – that myth has been busted. Concerted action on the part of India has yielded results,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, Chinese affairs professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Describing Xi Jinping as the ‘architect’ of the PLA’s recent aggressive moves against India, a leading US publication Newsweek reported that he has risked his future with the high profile incursions into Indian territory that ‘unexpectedly flopped’ in the face of ferocious fightback by the Indian Army. The Chinese Army’s failures on the Indian border will have consequences, it said, adding “you can say the Indians are more aggressive or more aggressively defensive, but they are in fact bolder and better. The setback in the Himalayas poses problems for Xi, which means it poses a problem for everyone else.”

Now, the Chinese side seems to have climbed down and changed tack suddenly.

An uneasy calm and a sort of temporary truce prevail in eastern Ladakh following the meeting between Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow that produced the first joint statement between the two countries since the beginning of the military stand-off in May..